Willie Mace awoke excited. It was a beautiful summer morning, and he was finally going to get to see the famed Yosemite Valley. For several years now, hundreds of visitors had caught the stage at his father's hotel in Madera and traveled to the Sierra Nevada to see the wonders of the big trees, the waterfalls and the breathtaking canyons. Today he would join them, but not on the stage.
Willie's mother, Jennie C. Mace, couldn't go right at the moment. Willie heard her tell Tillie, his half-sister, that she might meet them in the valley later. Somehow Tillie had talked her husband, Dr. C. E. Brown, Madera's first physician, into taking a vacation, and they had agreed to take Willie with them. He would ride the horse, and they would take the buggy. Finally, at the age of 13, he would see what this fuss concerning the Yosemite Valley was all about.
While Willie pranced and danced with impatience on that June morning, another Madera County youngster was equally restless, waiting for his childhood chum to join him.
Jonathon Rea Daulton had left earlier from Shepherd's Home in the company of his older brother, Jack Daulton, his sisters, Agnes and Ida, and their friend, Adelaide Raynor. They were now camped behind the Nichols Hotel at Fresno Flats.
While Jonathon was waiting at Fresno Flats, Willie was trying to expedite things in Madera. Finally, it came time for them to set out. Tillie and Doc got in the buggy, and Willie mounted his horse. They were off.
They spent their first night at the Mudgett Ranch, and by the next evening they arrived at Fresno Flats. Both Jonathon and Willie were much relieved to see each other; 13-year-old boys could find better things to do than to hang around older brothers and sisters whose primary purpose was spending time with their beaus and lady friends.
Both boys were up at 6 a.m. the next day, ready to go. Everyone got into buggies except Addie, who joined Jonathon and Willie riding horseback. Eleven miles up from the Flats they met Dr. Chester Rowell of Fresno. There they stopped at the site of what is now Fish Camp. They fished in Big Creek until evening, with no success.
Doc Brown hiked up stream to an Indian camp and bought some fish. By 10 p.m. everyone had eaten, and the boys went to bed, leaving the adults to finish their card game by the light of the campfire.
At 7 a.m., they pulled out again. Two miles up they turned to visit the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, just as Madera residents would do today. The boys got a fine view of Grizzly Giant, Faithful Couple, Wawona Tree, Telescope Tree, and Fallen Monarch.
Finally, they turned back and headed for Big Tree Station (modern Wawona).
The next stop was the 11-Mile Station where they spent their fourth night out. Then on the next day, Jonathon, Willie, and all, arrived on the floor of Yosemite Valley. The boys hurried to help stretch out their tent under a group of oak trees directly in front of Yosemite Falls. From their camp, the youngsters could hear the delightful roar of the falls because 1880 had been a very wet year.
On June 26, they fished and explored to the foot of Yosemite Falls. They took the plank walk over the marshy meadow, and that night, they pitched in to help make supper.
The next day, everyone saddled up and followed a guide up the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls. At Columbia Rock, they stopped for a look down into the valley. When they reached the top, they drank in the view of the rushing water and a stunning rainbow, then started back down the trail.
At that point the boys were given a special treat. The guide took them on a detour behind the falls. The wind and spray were so strong that they were almost knocked over. When they got back to the trail, they rested and dried off. By 2 p.m., they were back in camp for dinner.
After the noon meal, the grownups wanted to take a buggy ride to Mirror Lake, which they did, accompanied by Willie and Jonathon. On their way back to camp they stopped at Leidig's Hotel and, much to everyone's surprise, there sat Jennie Mace with Willie's baby sister, Inez. They had taken the stage. Mrs. Mace decided to stay in the hotel while the rest of the group returned to camp.
Willie and Jonathon remained in Yosemite with the adults for several more days. By Wednesday, June 30, it was picture time.
A photographer was hired to to take a picture of the group in their Sunday best at the campsite.
It turned out to be a highly valued remembrance of their 1880 trip to Yosemite, which was everything two young boys could ever expect.